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It hadn’t changed one bit.
The cottage remained as I had last seen it, the thatch roof was a pure chestnut colour. The brick work still white as new as if it had been built just today. The garden was not as well kept as the house was, the roses that once graced the sides of the house, where long gone. The front garden, that had belonged to my father at one time, was over grown and dying, it made me almost weep at the sight of it, it had been neglected all these years. I dared not walk through the little stomach high gate into the house, for fear or surprise of what I might see or remember. I looked towards the side of the house where the kitchen is, I inhaled the warm summer air the scent of newly baked bread would have filled my nose almost eighteen years ago, now however only the smell of lavender from the lavender farm over the road was smelt. I remember that farm, many a countless summer day was lost with my sister in that field.
Adam sat in the front seat of my jeep, awaiting my return, Sara in the back seat playing with her dolly, Cindy. One world lay before me and the other lay in one car. I never meant for these two worlds to collide but it was to happen some day and it happened today. I looked back at the house, the door was going to be unlocked as it had been for so many years. My shaking hand rested on the iron gate, I pushed it open.
I walked slowly up the garden path, the small stones beneath my boots knocked on each other and make me jump. I feel onto a patch of garden that had been over grown, I saw Adam open the car door hastily, I waved him off and he sat back down. I stood up carefully so not to fall again, it seemed my fall had brought me closer to the house. By instinct I reached for the door, before I could stop myself I opened the door, she smell or wood smoke filled my senses, I walked slowly into the house.
It was hollow.
Empty, it seemed black and white like a ghostly shell of its original self, as I wondered into the living room, it was as it had always been. The white sofa’s and grandma’s maple rocking chair sat in there unmoved positions. The fire place was lit, as it was promised it would be. The shelf’s were stacked high with books, books I’d spend countless hours in my room reading and re-reading. The light above me still shone in a dull light and the window was lined with mothers favourite flowered curtains. I smiled, a weak and suppressed smile. I hardy heard the door creak further open from behind me.
“You came.” I turned slowly, tears rolling down my cheeks at the sight I saw.
“Cookie.” I ran into the old women’s frail arms. She embraced me as if I was a mere child under her care, at which I had been at a time. She was a plump kindly women with warm brown eyes and white hair. She was our old house keeper and had been left the house in my parents absence. She had kept it as we had left it, or as I had left it.
We parted and she looked me over, taking in my appearance. My ebony hair was wavy, the length of my back, my eyes blue as the sky. I was not very tall but about 5”5. Cookie seemed to be drinking in my appearance, when she finally looked me in the eyes, she seemed breathless, I beckoned for us to sit.
“I’m so happy to see you my dear. Eighteen years, eighteen years this house as longed for your return.” I smiled at Cookie. She seemed to be melting.
“I’m glad to be back.” Cookie’s face fell.
“Then why leave?” I suddenly felt my heart sink, the memories of that night flooded back to me.
“I don’t know… I- I cant remember.” but I did.
“I remember too. Those words you spoke. Ring true in my ears even now.”
“I said I hated them… and I walked out.” Cookie shook her head. I held her hand, the warm feel of her hand made me feel at home.
“You came home, that’s all that matters now.” I looked once more around the room. It seemed so familiar yet no warmth filled my heart. I looked once more back at Cookie.
“I am home when I am with my daughter and husband, here….here I feel out of place and un easy. Cookie, what happened after I left?” it occurred to me I had never came looking for the house. It had found me, I had received a letter from Cookie herself telling me, my parents were looking for me once more and that I must return home, I never questioned how Cookie had managed to find me where my parents failed but I agreed at once on the condition they were not there when I returned so Cookies had arranged it as such.
“Amy, you Sally, your mother and father are my home. When you left my home shattered and broke.” the old women shook under the memory. “I was overjoyed when you agreed to come back. But to answer your question, my dear. When your parents found you had really left them, they immediately went looking for you. They told Adam’s parents but he was missing too. I knew when they came home with the news, you two had gone to London, as you had planned.” I must have looked alarmed because Cookie started laughing. “Darling, your late night phone calls were not as quiet as you thought they were,” I blushed a little.
“You never told my parents?” my voice panicked.
“No I never did. I thought if you truly loved this boy you would find a way to be with him. But like I said, I knew you’d gone to London. However that night, did you ever wonder who made sure Adam was waiting by the willow tree?” I smiled gratefully up at Cookie. She patted my shoulder as I choked out a thank you. I hugged her tightly, and she held my close.
“I never did. But now I know and so will he, soon. Will mama and papa be home soon?” Cookie looked taken aback at my question. She stood, smoothed out her cooking apron she had been wearing and looked casually out the window. I took glanced out the window, I saw Adam and Sara, she was showing her father Cindy’s new hair do. I smiled proudly and I heard Cookie sigh.
“Yes. Very soon with your sister, Sally also. They have all been out shopping.” I rose and followed Cookie outside, she walked me as far as the iron gate, she breathed in the air. I knew Cookie loved the smell of lavender.
“Thank you Cookie, it had been wonderful being back here.” I drank in the essence of the house once more and sighed, as I did I laughed at the mere thought of sitting in the car and returning to a whole different world. Cookie looked at the passenger seat in the car and a awkward Adam starred back, I beckoned him forward, he slowly got out the car and joined me, once he saw it was just Cookie in my company he sped up. I embraced him and Cookie did.
“So good to see you Adam.” she kissed his cheek and not long after a car pulled up behind ours and the gruff low voice I knew too well was heard behind me.
“Cookie who have you let in my parking space?” I turned slowly to see an aged man with a growing beard and receded hair, his eyes the same shade as mine. The bags of shopping he had been holding dropped to the floor. He stumbled forward at the sight of me, I opened the gate hastily and ran forward, the man ran too. We met half way and hugged tightly, tears coming to my eyes. The man gripped my coat, pulling me close. A second shopping bag fell to the floor and I heard footsteps running along the road. As soon as I was released by the man, an aged women too hugged me in a softer manner but the same urgency.
“Your back! Your back!” I was then taken in by both adults. When we parted, Adam and Cookie had joined us.
“Ill put some tea on then shall I?” Cookie left us.
We were lost for words. Until finally a sound was heard. Small footsteps ran up the pavement and a small creature leapt into my arms.
“Mommy, mommy! Look at Cindy’s hair!” a small doll was shoved into my arms by Sara, my daughter. The doll was blurred in my vision until I obtained my daughters attention. Her father came behind us and held my shoulders steady.
“Sara, these are your grandparents and that lady behind them… is your aunt. Aunt Sally.” the figure held back from the familiar embrace but I knew I would speak to her later. Sally and I would talk things threw and she would understand.
Finally, as I stood there with my parents, my sister, my husband and my child, I finally saw my two worlds collide, and in that one moment two worlds were joined forever.